If you're here looking for info about the game, the short version is: it rained out, and they're doing a doubleheader tomorrow, 11am in Cary, 6pm in Durham.
So, today we arrived at Durham Bulls Athletic Park at 4:30pm, for a 5pm gates opening, for a 6:05pm game. (Why do they open the gates so late? Sigh.) At 4:45pm, it started raining and lightning and thundering.
At 5pm they opened the gates to the stadium. Mike and I went in and found Conor sitting in the covered seating area up behind 1st base, with some of the other scouts that had gotten in early to watch batting practice. "That Yamakawa kid hit a home run over the bull in straightaway left field," he informed me. (There's a bull billboard in left field, and it says "Hit the bull, get a steak. Hit the grass, get a salad.")
Speaking of Yamakawa -- I just read an article saying that he's the 2nd Japanese guy in the history of the Japan-US collegiate tournaments to hit a grand slam against the US -- and even crazier, the first one was Tatsunori Hara, 32 years ago.
Anyway, we sat and waited to see what would happen. In theory, the weather for the evening had said there'd be scattered thunderstorms starting around 8pm, and if we were lucky we hoped maybe the clouds would pass us over.
But, at 6pm, it was raining -- harder than ever.
At 7pm, it was STILL RAINING. And the field was starting to look like one big puddle, at that, so even if the rain stopped, it was unclear how long it'd take to clear the field out. They were showing videos on the screen of things like Baseball Bugs Bunny and such.
Around 7:30pm the rain was still going, though it was letting up a little. The staff really didn't want to have to cancel this game because there were so many people there, it was the 4th of July, they were planning fireworks, etc. They started doing trivia games and such to keep the fans entertained.
I went down to the Japan dugout, since some of the players had poked their heads out to figure out WTF was going on, and I got a photo of a few of them. I also ran into the Japanese lady I'd talked to a bit on Sunday, and so we hung out too, taking photos of stuff and chatting in Japanese. Fujioka poked his head out of the dugout and nodded hello at me and I almost fainted.
Around 8pm the rain had let up almost entirely, and so the Japanese players all came out to right field to jog and warm up. So we went over to watch.
And at this time, over the loudspeaker, they started saying "We hate to do this, but tonight's game has been postponed to tomorrow night. Same time, same place, same game, same fireworks, everything, just tomorrow at 6pm instead of tonight. You can use your same tickets and come back here. Tonight's game has been postponed."
My new Japanese friend started freaking out, since it turns out she speaks almost zero English (her husband does, though), and I translated, and so both of us are like "What are we going to dooooooo?"
Clearly what we decided to do then was hang out by the field and take photos. Some kids were around trying to get the Japanese players to sign stuff, which they did. Well, and some were still practicing, so I kinda translated that for the kids ("They say they'll sign for you after they finish throwing, okay?"), and I chatted with a few of the players as they went by. Taki in particular, I talked to for a bit. I'd sent a birthday card to Kazuki Mishima back in May, and included a Safeco Field postcard for the whole Hosei team, and wondered if it got there, and apparently it did. Whew. I asked whether the guys had been studying English for this trip and he was like "No, we totally suck. English is hard."
I finally got a photo with Yuhei Nakaushiro! So I have gotten a photo with all 5 of the guys I set out to collect when this magazine came out. Hooray?
And we watched the guys tossing. Yoshida promised me a photo but once they got back from the dugout, except then we all got kicked out of the stadium. So the four of us went and stalked the Japan bus and said goodnight to the players as they came out, and I got a few more photos with people.
Oh well, here are a bunch of photos all at once:
The field, it is rainy. The players, they are somewhat enjoying it but not really. The fans, they are clustered in the stands.
"Okazaki, Sasaki, can I take a photo of you guys?"
"Sure. Why do you speak Japanese?"
"Uh, I lived in Tokyo for a few years and used to watch you guys all the time?" [holds up Tokyo Big 6 towel]
Pitcher pow-wow after the rainout is announced.
Mikami and Fujioka threw a little in the bullpen anyway.
Some players sign for some little kids. (It was actually kinda funny because a kid would say in English, "Can I have your autograph please?" and the Japanese guys would go "...uh...sign?" and they'd be like "Yes, sign!")
Me and Taki :)
"Nakaushiro! Can I get a photo with you?"
"Huh? I gotta go, what do you mean?"
"Just a 2-shot."
So this was afterwards, catching players on their way to the bus. Here's me with Tomoya Mikami, adding to my Hosei collection.
"Kanemitsu-kantoku! Can I get a photo with you?"
"[double-take] Say what?"
"Uhh... I'm a big Hosei fan and would love to get a photo with you. [shows towel]"
"Well, thank you. Why are you a Hosei fan?"
"I really liked Kagami and became a fan because of him..."
"I see... thank you for cheering for us!"
"Yamakawa-kun! Can I get a photo with you?"
(His response was roughly the Japanese equivalent of "Sure, babe." I really like this kid, he's funny and he can really hit.)
Yuta Yoshida. I told him I'm a huge Nichidai San fan, he seemed surprised but at least slightly less WTF at me, like "Cool, thanks for cheering for them!" (He was Sanko captain a few years back.)
Waved goodbye to the bus, waved goodbye to the Ikedas (at the time I didn't know about the 11am game, just wasn't sure if we could stay for the 6pm game in Durham since we need to fly out of Charlotte early Wednesday morning, so it seemed unlikely we'd see them again).
And then we went off in search of dinner, which ended up being Bojangles. I'd never been there before, but it wasn't bad. We had Cook Out for lunch, too, which had fantastic milkshakes though I didn't think the food was that great. It's funny how North Carolina actually has significant regional food, though!
We may end up going to the game in Cary tomorrow morning if the weather looks promising. Probably not going to stay in Durham for the evening. Fujioka's supposed to pitch the morning game and Sugano the evening, which is also a deciding factor for me :)